Today is Marcie's Birthday - yay!! So thankful she decided to spend it here celebrating in Africa. For her gift - I let her shower first at the end of the day when we are so gritty, smelly and gross... :-) And she did her annual Facebook post to say "thanks for the birthday greetings" - once she asked me how to post a status as she had forgotten. Oh man.... we're so different.
Today we tackled some of the "business" side of things in the morning. Most of these photos are simple iPhone snaps as I was tired of getting yelled at in stores for taking photos and having security guards make me delete them. On that note... it does take awhile to get use to going through airport style security to enter a store or mall and seeing guards with large guns casually strolling around. But at the same time - reassuring.
I really wanted to see where our artist's purchase supplies and what is available. So when I say "can you use this clasp instead?" I know if I'm being difficult or reasonable. I also realized it is not a simple walk to the store to pick up supplies - it is a lengthy bus ride and a good walk afterwards. This will help me plan better to order in bulk rather than a couple items here and there. It was really helpful to see what goes on behind the scenes. Also loved their attention to detail - as they would show me why one clasp is better quality than another, or an elastic is stronger than a different style. I was itching to get behind the bars where the supplies were to shop freely (rather than asking for what we want to be handed out) but I was denied. Sigh.
I should mention... after two days here in Africa, Marcie and I finally figured out why the days were so short here and people kept arriving an hour early for everything. We forgot to change our clocks from Istanbul time to Nairobi time - so we were off by an hour. Glad we figured it out before we missed a flight or something! (Marcie told me not to post this fun fact - so I had to naturally)
After visiting here, we went to see where school uniforms are purchased. As I've mentioned before, every time we talk to someone in Africa or who works with African countries and ask what one thing is needed most for change - the answer is always education. And right now in Kenya the 2014 school results for top students and schools are flooding all the media outlets. Education is so important! So, as we look for ways to support our friends in the future we like to research costs and availability of items. I had to be really sneaky getting this picture so excuse quality.
Another thing we have been working on during this trip is getting our partners here set up properly for communication. Today that meant setting them up with wifi and figuring out the best options. Not super exciting signing papers and getting set up but being able to communicate with ease... super exciting.
We also were hoping to look into birth certificates and what is needed for them as many of our friends in Kibera do not have the required ID needed to apply for them. If you are interested in purchasing a birth certificate for someone you can do so HERE - when we gave them a list of needs we asked them to prioritize this was number one. Something I know I take completely for granted. Our goal is to have a birth certificate for all our artists! I would be in Kenyan jail or my camera confiscated I'm sure if I tried to take a picture inside a government building - so here's a little street shot of downtown. Don't be fooled by how calm it looks. It's chaos. And our dear friend Jack, insists on walking on the road instead of the sidewalks "not as crowded" he says as we weave between moving vehicles. So I continually pointed out all the nice looking sidewalks and people walking on them. He laughed at me.
This was a loooong day but we came back to Kibera and were able to hand out some Give5 bags - yay!! We will definitely post more on that later but for now here's one sweetheart with her new shirt and toy. Everyone told us her name was "baby" and we couldn't find her Give5 bag... turns out she does in fact have a name. And it's not baby. This was not the only child who people (even parents) got their names mixed up on. Hearing someone say "Call your wife and check what your son's second name really is" when there was a bag where two boys had the same first name for example. Different priority on precise names I find... like my one friend here who every time he emails he spells his name - his own name - slightly different.
And the kids weren't the only recipients - we brought safety gear for our artists too! Yesterday I posted a photo of Dom and why he so desperately needed safety goggles - this is a big improvement seen below! We also were able to hand out gloves, masks, and coveralls. Thank you for your generosity!
Time to hop in a matatu and head back to the hotel for the night. If you haven't ridden in a matatu - here's a quick photo of one that drove by me today. No room for personal space - but always room for more people.
Our matatu driver and the guy who leans out the door yelling where we are headed - were quite thrilled to have not one, but two muzungus in a fairly empty matatu to practice their english on. Our conversation went like this...
"Are you Americans?"
"No we are from Canada"
"What state do you live in?"
"We don't live in a state, we are from Canada."
"I have a friend in Kansas."
(Sidenote - Kansas is over 1900km from where I live. I don't know his friend.) :-)
When I got back, as I mentioned I was feeling a bit drained (I know - woe is me) but I spoke to the front desk clerk about a simple question... which lead to an amazing, encouraging conversation that completely inspired me. She had in fact grew up in Kibera slums herself, and she shared how she was sponsored through Compassion and was given an education and now has a great job and has left the slums, helped her parents move out of there and is married with a child. She said she just had to focus and work hard - and not let people look down on her from where she came. That didn't dictate who she was or who she would become. Love her.
And then... to close off the evening had this favourite conversation with a group of Kenyan businessmen who came and checked in while I was talking to my new friend at the front desk.
"Are you American?" (I should count how many times a day I get asked this)
"No, I'm from Canada."
"Is that in the UK?"
"Where is it then? Near the UK?"
"No, it's north of the United States."
"Is it a country then?"
"Yes... the second largest country in the world."
"Oh, I'll have to look up Canada!"